South All-Star football team overpowers the North, 54-19
MIDDLEBURY — With help from five Middlebury and four Otter Valley union high school seniors, the South all-star team rolled to a 54-19 victory in Saturday’s 15th annual North-South All-Star Football Game, which was played at Middlebury College’s Alumni Stadium.
Three members of the Mount Abraham-Vergennes squad made an impact for the North side, but a South team that included players from the three Vermont champions, Rutland, Burr & Burton and OV, and two of the runners-up, the Tigers and Bellows Falls, rolled to a 34-6 halftime lead in a game that all the local players said they enjoyed.
The local all-stars said they had a good time not only having a chance to play another game, but also to get to know the athletes they suited up against.
“We got along pretty good for being opponents,” said Tiger lineman Wyatt Laberge, who fought off double-teams on defense on Saturday. “Everything was pretty much just laughs. And then we got serious and got back into the game.”
Eagle lineman Matt Mullin — who made several tackles on the North defensive front — said it was a point of pride among he and teammates Ryan Paquin, who played middle linebacker, and Jack Eisenhower, a defensive end, that the program placed a trio of all-stars in the game.
“It’s the first time we’ve had three, so that’s great,” Mullin said.
And Mullin’s teammates also made their presence felt, Paquin made several tackles, while Eisenhower’s most notable play was nearly intercepting a second-quarter swing pass thrown by Fair Haven quarterback Ryan Alexander toward OV standout Carson Leary.
Leary (15 carries, 56 yards) failed to break any big runs with the North defense keying on him, but converted two fourth-and-short carries to keep South drives alive and caught two passes for 22 yards, one for a 16-yard touchdown in which he pancaked a defensive back.
Leary, who ran as a tailback, also was pleased to be elected one of captains of a South team led by Fair Haven coach Brian Grady, the last Vermont coach to win a Shrine game vs. New Hampshire.
“I feel like that was kind of school pride. It was an honor just to be nominated,” he said.
Leary also effectively served as pass protection for Alexander, who completed 12 of 22 passes for 221 yards and four touchdowns in making a strong Shrine team case. Three of Alexander’s TD passes went to his Slater teammate Lucas Czarnecki.
Leary also paved the way for other backs, including helping to create a big hole for Rutland’s Caleb White (16 carries, 80 yards) to score from three yards out in the third quarter.
After rushing for more than 2,600 yards this fall, Leary said he has happy to help someone else pick up a few.
“I was OK with it,” Leary said. “All around, it was a lot of fun today.”
The Tigers, of course, also made impacts. Defensive lineman Nick Beauchamp counted a sack and a tackle for a four-yard loss among his afternoon’s work. Defensive back Ali Abdul-Sater, added to the roster to replace the injured Oakley Gordon, broke up a couple of passes and chipped in a couple tackles. Tight end/linebacker Sawyer Ryan completed the MUHS contingent.
Laberge said all were happy to be there.
“It means a lot to us, because, well, you’re being called an all-star,” Laberge said. “It’s being the best of the best, and it really makes us feel good to be nominated for this game.”
The South took a 21-0 lead by scoring on all three of its first-quarter possessions. Rutland QB Andy Kenosh (9 for 23, three TDs, one interception) hit his Raider teammate Cam Slade from 23 yards for the first score, and Alexander hit Czarnecki for an 18-yard TD on the next possession. Leary kept that drive alive with an 8-yard run on fourth-and-one.
After that, U-32 QB Matt Greene threw the first of his four interceptions, right at the South goal line. Leary soon afterward converted a fourth-and-one at the South 31. Kenosh capped the drive by hitting Slade from 30 yards out, with Slade winning a jump ball at the goal line.
U-32 fullback Colby Brochu ran five times on a drive that ended with him scoring on an 11-yard run to put the North on the board at 6:02 of the second. But two more Alexander TD passes, a 17-yarder to Mill River tight end Dylan Shelvey and another to Czarnecki made it 34-6 at the break.
Kenosh tossed to Leary in the flat for the 16-yard TD to open the second, and it was 41-6. Greene hit Colchester’s Travis Boutin for a 6-yard score to make it 41-13, but yet another Alexander-to-Czarnecki Slater special made it 47-13 at 3:46 of the third. After another Greene interception, Smith punched it in from the 3 to make it 54-13 after three quarters.
Brochu, who finished with 10 carries for 91 yards, broke loose for a 41-yard fourth-quarter TD to cap the scoring. CVU’s Kyle Lowery, Milton’s Brad Bombard and Colchester’s Dakota Navari showed flashes running the ball, but North QBs Green and Eli DiGrande combined to complete just 12 of 29 attempts.
Leary, of course, was not the only Otter playing. Three of the two-way linemen who paved the way for his record-setting season and shut down opponents all year were along for Saturday’s party: Tyler Allen, M.J. Denis (who recovered a fumble on Saturday) and Trevor Peduto. Leary wants all four Otters to play New Hampshire in next summer’s Shrine game.
“That’s the plan,” he said. “I hope so.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].